Voices along the Ganges : Weddings & Funerals

As I write this post, news has already poured in : River Ganges has been declared the National River of India. Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh later announced : ‘the emotional link between Ganga and Indians needs to be recognised‘.

In my earlier posts Voices along the Ganges : Saints & Beggars and Voices along the Ganges : Chants & Folklores, I let you experience some great exotic sounds right from the source of the Ganges, Gomukh to Benares (Varanasi) and then Patna in Bihar.

Bihar has immensely contributed to the hindustani classical music and has produced musicians like Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan and dhrupad singers like the Malliks (Darbhanga Gharana) (see previous post on the Malliks) and the Mishras (Bettiah Gharana). Bihar has a very old tradition of beautiful folk songs, sung during important family occasions, such as marriage, birth ceremonies, festivals, etc. They are sung mainly in group settings with the help of many musical instruments like Dholak, Bansuri and occasionally Tabla and Harmonium are used. Bihar also has a tradition of lively Holi songs known as ‘Phagua‘, filled with fun rhythms.

Patna – Sohar :  (Download)

Patna – Marriage Song :  (Download)

During the 19th century, when the condition of Bihar worsened under the British misrule, many Biharis had to migrate as indentured laborers to West Indian islands, Fiji, and Mauritius. During this time many sad plays and songs called biraha became very popular, in the Bhojpur area. Dramas on that theme continue to be popular in the theaters of Patna.

Continuing our journey southwards along the bank of the Ganges we come across Mithila, a land shaded by old mango groves and watered by melt water rivers of Nepal and the Himalayas.

Mithila – Ropni Geet (sowing of paddy) :  (Download)

Mithila – Kohbar :  (Download)

Malda – Domni Chant :  (Download)

The men of Mithila have been famous as priests and scholars. The women largely illiterate, find cultural expression through exquisite paintings created for ritual occasions. They cover their courtyard walls in abstract images in brilliant colour.

In the 1960s some local officials realised that if the women would only put some of their paintings on paper there might be a worldwide market for their creations. They proved to be correct and it is a mild irony in Mithila that the fame of the women has surpassed that of the men, because Mithila Art, otherwise known as Madhubani Paintings also, is now recognised throughout the world.

.. more Voices along the Ganges »

The journey along the river Ganges will continue…

Enjoy !!


Bidur Mallik : Nightingale of Mithila

Bidur Mallik is a descendent of Radhakrishna and Kartaram, the two brothers who started the musical tradition of this family of Mithila. They appeared at the court of Darbhanga (in north eastern India, near the Nepalese border), around 1790 and made a name for themselves by averting a drought through the singing of the magical ‘Rain Raga’ or Raga Megh. As a result, the Maharaja of Darbhanga granted them the title ‘Mallik‘ (Landowner), and conferred to them two villages and the surrounding landed property, where the family lives up to the present day. They served at the court up to the closing down of the state in 1947. After the death of Ram Chatur Mallik, the last actual court singer, in 1991, today Bidur Mallik is the senior musician in the family.

Born on August 15th 1936, he became the senior doyen of the Dhrupad tradtion of Darbhanga after the death of Ram Chatur Mallik in 1990. He inherited the musical knowledge and perfomance techniques of the Mallik Family, without which the annals of classical Indian music would not be complete. Together with his sons and the pakhavaj player Ramji Upadhyaya he visited Europe for the first time in 1983 during a Dhrupad festival organized by Peter Pannke in cooperation with the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation.

Khamaj Dadra (Nazariya) :  (Download)

Khamaj Thumri (Chhavi Dikhalaja) :  (Download)

Presently, he directs the ‘Pandit Sukhdeo Mallik Sangeet Samiti‘, a music school he established in the name of his father and Guru in Vrindaban, the centre of Krishna worship and home town of Dhrupad near Delhi. His foremost disciples are his three sons Ramkumar, Anandkumar and Premkumar, who in turn are teaching their own children. As the children have already started to perform to much acclaim, three generations of the family are presently active.

The Malliks are famous all over India for a very rhythmically elaborated interpretation of Dhrupad – a style which is virtually unknown in the West. Except for old Dhrupad and Dhamar compositions – of which they possess an unparalleled stock – they are also known for their exposition of Khyal, Taranas, Ghazals, Bhajans and songs of the medieval poet Vidyapati in Thumri style.

Vidyapati Thumri (Kunja Bhavana Se) :  (Download)

Mirabai Bhajan (Giridhara Nagar) :  (Download)

Bhairavi Thumri (Basiya Na Tere) :  (Download)

In Europe, they appeared first in 1983, at a European Dhrupad Festival organized for the Berlin ‘International Institute for Traditional Music‘ by world music specialist Peter Pannke, who has lived with the Mallik family in India for many years. In 1992, he invited them again for the Parampara Festival in Berlin, where they were performing together in the Tutti Shruti Orchestra. The 1993 European tour climaxed in the opening concert of the New Jazz Festival Moers, in 1994 they appeared at the legendary BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London.